THE 24/7 APPROACH TO PROMOTING GOOD WELFARE FOR ZOO-HOUSED ANIMALS

Humans are an inevitable part of the lives of all captive animals, be they zoo-housed, companion, working, laboratory or farmed animals. The premise of the 24/7 animal welfare concept is to consider, map out and research whether the needs and wants of the individual animals under human care are being met, 24/7 across the lifespan.

Initially we shall use zoo-housed animals as an example to consider the wider context. Modern zoos have many roles to fulfil; conservation, education, research and recreation are often all listed in their mission statements. These different roles can be compatible as well as conflicting, when trying to meet visitor and animal needs. Not only do zoos have roles, but zoos also apply roles to animals, which may result in different welfare considerations. Although visitors and staff only spend a number of hours at the zoo, most animals are there 24/7, all year round, from birth to death. As wild animals in captivity are reliant on humans to provide conditions to meet their needs and wants, the absence of caretakers and other zoo professionals for two-thirds of the day is likely to impact on the choices available to the animals, and their perceived control.

How do we ensure high animal welfare, 24/7, throughout the animal’s lifespan and in relation to the role of the animal and the wider context? We must consider welfare across the day and night, understanding how changes across the week, month and throughout the year impact on welfare. For example the absence of zoo staff for the majority of the day needs to be carefully reviewed to highlight areas in need of improvements in the way animals are housed and displayed throughout their lives.

The idea of the 24-hour approach to promoting good welfare for zoo-housed animals sprung from a presentation that Sabrina Brando did during the 2009 International Conference on Environmental Enrichment. Her presentation was on exploring environmental enrichment and training opportunities, and giving more choices and control to animals. Over the years this idea has grown to cover many of the topics which are relevant to a high quality of animal care. In June 2013, Sabrina Brando and Professor Hannah Buchanan-Smith teamed up to further explore and research this concept, and are currently working on publications and workshops relating to the 24/7 animal welfare approach.